BOSTON, May 8, 2013—The state’s highest court today reversed two lower courts’ decisions to suppress gun and drug evidence recovered from a Jamaica Plain stash house, ruling that a police officer’s affidavit was sufficient to show probable cause that evidence of criminal activity at that location, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
The ruling allows Suffolk prosecutors to move forward in the case against REGINALD CLAGON (D.O.B. 12/5/79), ANTHONY GERALD (D.O.B.7/4/87), and GREGORY KIMBLE (D.O.B. 2/5/87), who were arrested in 2010. Clagon is charged with trafficking in cocaine, Gerald with possession with intent to distribute a Class A substance and possession of a Class B substance, and Kimble with trafficking in cocaine, possession with intent to distribute a Class B substance, unlawful possession of a firearm, and unlawful possession of ammunition.
The defendants filed a motion to suppress evidence collected pursuant to a search warrant at 8 Blanvon Rd., where Gerald allegedly stored large quantities of drugs he planned to sell. The men claimed that the sparse details contained in a Boston Police officer’s affidavit were not sufficient, and a Suffolk Superior Court judge agreed. Prosecutors appealed that decision to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, which affirmed the earlier ruling.
Prosecutors sought further appellate review by the Supreme Judicial Court, which today reversed the ruling, stating in its decision that the affidavit showed probable cause to believe that drugs and other evidence of distribution would be found inside the building.
At issue was whether there was probable cause to believe that drugs were stored at the location or that evidence of the illicit transactions would be found at the specific location targeted in the search warrant.
Prior to the issuance of the search warrant, members of the Boston Police Department learned from a confidential informant that Gerald was selling heroin. They conducted three controlled buys over the course of 30 days, prosecutors said. On two occasions, Gerald received a call from the confidential informant and then was observed leaving the Blanvon Road address and going directly to a prearranged meeting spot, and he was seen returning to the building immediately after a drug sale on a third date, prosecutors said.
The affidavit did not state the exact location of the drug transactions, but the SJC ruled that the exact location and other information, such as the amount of heroin purchased, were not necessary.
“While such details likely would have made the affidavit more compelling, they are largely immaterial to the question whether evidence would probably be found at the premises. In particular, however long it took Gerald to travel to the sale, the fact that he did not stop anywhere en route indicates that he had the substance with him when he left the premises and did not obtain it elsewhere on the way,” the decision states.
Further, the justices determined that leaving out the location of the transaction was necessary to protecting the identity of the confidential informant, as drug dealers often assign specific meeting places to each buyer in order to determine which of their clients shared information with law enforcement based on the location of the drug sale in question, they stated.
The justices also ruled that it is not necessary for police to present evidence that a suspect owns or lives at the location where the drug operation is based. The affidavit adequately linked Gerald and the alleged drug activity to the address, the justices said.
“Whether the suspect owns the premises, lives there, or merely conducts business there, the question is whether evidence is likely to be found there. And, as we have discussed, the affidavit establishes that Gerald was making use of the premises, even if it did not establish ownership or residence,” the decision states.
Assistant District Attorney Teresa Anderson of the DA’s Appellate Division argued the motions on appeal. Assistant District Attorney Lauren Greene represents the Commonwealth in the ongoing case in Suffolk Superior Court. Assistant Clagon is represented by attorney John Fennel, Kimble by Robert M. Griffin, and Gerald by E. Michael Sullivan. They will return to Suffolk Superior Court on May 21.
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.